Portland Public Schools provided its teachers union with a settlement proposal Monday afternoon that included a compromise on cost of living adjustments but altered a proposal from the union that gives parents a say in resolving class size issues.
The district’s proposal would delay the start of winter break until Dec. 23 and extend the school year by three days to June 14 to recoup the 11 school days students have missed since the strike began Nov. 1.
The added instructional days would make up for the work educators missed in November, allowing them to retain their district-provided health insurance in December, the proposal said.
The proposal would cost $171 million over three years, up from the $147 million package the district proposed a week ago, and would require the district to make more than $120 million in cuts, district officials said.
Cost of living increases for teachers would total 13.8% over three years. Teachers would receive a 6.25% increase in year one, 4% in year two and 3% in the final year of the contract. That’s an increase from the 10.9% cost of living raise that the district had proposed last week but down from the 18% that union negotiators had been asking for.
It was not immediately clear whether the union would be amenable to the district’s proposal or when the two sides would return to the bargaining table. A union spokesperson told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Monday afternoon that the union had not yet had the time to review the proposal, which the district sent at 1 p.m.
The district’s proposal comes after a marathon bargaining session that lasted through the night Sunday ended abruptly Monday morning after an apparent breakdown in communication between district and union negotiators.
The parties had agreed on 17 contract articles since Thursday and had just a few more key items to go when talks broke down Monday morning.
The Portland Association of Teachers accused members of the Portland School Board of rejecting a settlement recommendation agreed upon by both the union and district. However, board members said the proposal wasn’t a final jointly agreed upon settlement and that they couldn’t accept a union plan that would allow parents to help resolve class size issues at an individual or classroom level.
The union has proposed forming “class size” committees that would negotiate the terms of allowing students to join classes when they are already at a particular threshold, from 24 in kindergarten to 28 in fifth grade, or when a middle or high school teacher is assigned more than 150 students or 160 students, respectively.
The committees could recommend that a reading specialist spend more time working with children in an over-threshold classroom or that an educational assistant should be hired. District officials have said including parents on such committees raises concerns about federal education privacy laws since those committees might discuss what kind of support individual students would need in the classroom, and that parents should not be involved in making decisions about other people’s children.
The language in the Portland Association of Teachers’ latest proposal Sunday night made parent involvement in those committees optional – if teachers and school administrators agreed parents should be involved – union and district spokespeople confirmed.
Even still, board members had concerns about whether parents would have access to personal information about students, which they said would run afoul of student privacy laws.
“Speaking as a parent, there are things about my children that I think are very private to our family and to the individual student and I think most parents feel that,” board member Julia Brim-Edwards said at a press conference Monday.
The district’s latest proposal instead calls for optional school-wide class size committees, which would include two parents who would be prohibited from discussing students’ personally identifiable information.
The proposal also maintains a 3% increase in base salary that teachers receive for every student in their classroom, or in their caseload, that exceeds the agreed upon thresholds. The union had proposed last week to increase that overage pay to 5% for the first student over the threshold and 10% for each additional student in elementary school, along with similar increases for every five students added at the middle and high school levels.
Across the district, just 14% of elementary school classes are so big that the teachers union says educators should receive extra pay for shouldering such a heavy load.
Sami Edge covers higher education for The Oregonian. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (503) 260-3430.